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Sleeping less than six hours can provide serious heart attack and vascular risks

Posted at 7:02 PM, Jan 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-01-18 20:09:20-05

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who aren’t getting enough sleep, a newly released study found that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night have an increased risk of atherosclerosis.

That can lead to heart attacks, strokes and vascular disease.

KRIS-6 news anchor Paulo Salazar sat down with local interventional cardiologist Dr. Travis Taylor, who sheds light on these troubling statistics in this report.

“This study adds to what we’ve already known as cardiologists for several years,” said Taylor, who works with the Coastal Cardiology practice. “And that it’s not only medications that can modify your risk for coronary artery disease or developing atherosclerosis  of other arteries of your body.”

Taylor comments on a recent study by the American College of Cardiology, which states traditional risk factors for cardiovascular disease were also considered, but the study found that participants who slept less than six hours were 27 percent more likely to have atherosclerosis throughout the body compared with those who slept seven to eight hours.

Atherosclerosis is the process of fatty buildup in the inner lining of an artery. It causes arteries to narrow, weaken and be less flexible. The buildup is called plaque and reduces the amount of blood and oxygen delivered to vital organs. Sometimes the plaque can be bad enough to close off blood supply to the heart causing a heart attack or even a stroke. “So, people that move around a lot at night and had a restless night are more likely to develop atherosclerosis than those that sleep soundly throughout the night.”

Taylor also describes potential warning signs of potential risk.

“There are many people at risk, particularly those with diabetes, high blood pressure, men that are over the age of 55, women that are over the age of 65, those that are overweight and now we know those that do not sleep well at night are at significant risk,” he said.

And, there are ways to ensure you don’t fall victim and provides tips to fight back.

“Eating a low-fat, particularly low saturated fat diet and having a low sugar diet will also prevent the development of atherosclerosis,” Taylor said. “Starting an exercise program, as long as it’s okay with your doctor, including cardio and weight training can help prevent atherosclerosis and also now getting good quality sleep is very important to prevent this disease.”

Dr. Taylor says the elderly are most at risk. He adds sticking to a bedtime routine and using your bed only for sleep rather than watching TV or reading a book can help improve your sleep health.